I’ve just surprised myself. This novel I’m working on (Cross-Country Flying) is not what I thought it was. The first suspicion came when I read the words, “Silent, she lingered near the door. ‘What are you doing way back there?’ Karl asked, and patted the sofa cushion beside him. ‘Come closer.’”
I found a phrase buried earlier in the novel: “stalking the perimeters of relationships.” My main character pursues relationships, though she’s really not equipped to relate to another person. She’s not wise about herself.
The novel is about her developing self-knowledge.
Jonathan Franzen knows about the damage that family relationships can leave behind. He writes this in The New York Times Book Review (6/6/10) : “. . . telling the story of . . . inner life is what novels, and only novels, are for. Or used to be, at least. Because haven’t we left this stuff behind us? High-mindedly domineering males? Children as accessories to their parents’ narcissism? The nuclear family as a free-for-all of psychic abuse? We’re tired of the war between the sexes and the war between the generations, because these wars are so ugly, and who wants to look into the mirror of a novel and see such ugliness? How much better about ourselves we’ll feel when we stop speaking our embarrassing private family languages!”
I wish my main character were a frank-faced, upbeat person who shows no bruises from “embarrassing private family languages.” But she isn’t, and that’s that.